The Rare Books and Special Collections Library at the University of Minnesota owns some precious titles related to Medieval and Early Modern Spain, early imprints and manuscripts as well as facsimiles and modern editions. This exhibit contains highlights of those treasures, and attempts to illustrate the history of the rare Spanish books collections at the University of Minnesota Libraries, and by association that of Hispanic Studies in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies at the University of Minnesota, training ground of prominent scholars such as the Dominican Republic polymath Pedro Henríquez Ureña (1884-1946), a 1918 graduate.

Rafael E. Tarragó
Librarian for Iberian & Ibero-American Studies
Curator of the Exhibit

Pradilla y Ortiz. Painting (Detail) from 1882: Boabdil confronted by Ferdinand and Isabella after the Fall of Granada 1492 via Wikimedia Commons


Crónica general de España. Ms. on paper ca. 15th Century. (Wilson Library Rare Books Folio 946.02 C881 ). Purchased from H.P. Kraus in 1951.
This is the only manuscript related to Spain in the Rare Books Collection. It is an incomplete summary and condensation of the Primera crónica general compiled under the patronage of King Alfonso X of Castile (known as The Wise), written in a calligraphic Gothic bookhand of the 15th century.

Alfonso X, King of Castile, 1221-1284.
Crónica del muy esclarecido príncipe y rey…
Valladolid: S. Martinez, 1544. (Wilson Library Rare Books Quarto 861AI28 DSa55).
Accessioned on May 17, 1965.
Printed edition of the celebrated chronicle of Spanish history compiled under the patronage of King Alfonso X of Castile.

Ocampo, Florián de, 1499?-1555?
Los quatro libros primeros de la Crónica general de España.
Zamora: J. Picardo, 1544. (Wilson Library Rare Books Folio 946.01 Oc1q).
Accessioned on July 5, 1917, it was purchased for $6.48.
This is one of the first printed editions of the Crónica general de España.

Juan Cordero (1822 - 1884) (Mexican) Cristopher Columbus at the Court of the Catholic Monarchs (Details of artist on Google Art Project) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Córdoba, Martín de, d. 1476.
Jardín de nobles doncellas, facsimile edition.
Madrid, 1953. (Wilson Library Rare Books 304 M363).
Accessioned on September 30, 1970.
The Augustinian friar and theologian Martín de Córdoba presented the Jardín de nobles doncellas (Garden of Noble Maidens) to Isabella of Castile in 1468, before she became queen. This work both praises the virtues of women and advises them on various aspects of their lives.

Marcuello, Pedro, d. 1494.
Rimado de la conquista de Granada, facsimile edition of 1482-94 illuminated manuscript.
Madrid: Musee Conde-Chateau de Chantilly, Edilan, 1995. (Wilson Library Rare Books Z115 .S7 M37 1995).
Purchased in 2004.
Pedro Marcuello, the mayor of Calatorao (Zaragoza), wrote this richly illuminated book celebrating events of the reign of Isabella and Ferdinand for their daughter Juana, who married Archduke Philip of Habsburg, son of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I and of Mary of Burgundy, sovereign of the Netherlands. Juana’s oldest son, Charles I (r. 1516-1556), was the first Spanish monarch of the House of Habsburg.

Biblia complutensis, facsimile of Alcala de Henares, 1514, 4 volumes.
Rome: Gregorian University Polyglot Center, 1873-84. (Wilson Library Rare Books Folio BS1 1514a).
Purchased in 1999.
This Bible in four languages (Hebrew, Greek, Chaldean, and the Latin Vulgate of St. Jerome) with lexicons and dictionaries of these languages and a Hebrew grammar was prepared under the direction of Cardinal Francisco Jimenez de Cisneros, confessor of Queen Isabella I of Castile. It is considered the epitome of the scholarship inspired by the Christian humanism that developed in Spain during the reign of Isabella and her husband Ferdinand II of Aragon.

Titian. Portrait of Emperor Charles V. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Guevara, Antonio de, d. 1545.
Vita, gesti, costumi, discorsi, lettere di Marco Aurelio imperatore...
Venice, 1546. (Wilson Library Rare Books 862.G93 JV ).
Accessioned on October 21, 1929, it was purchased for $307.00.

The mirror of princes, a treatise meant to instruct future kings about their religious, moral, and political duties was a genre developed in Medieval Europe. This is an Italian translation of the mirror of princes that Antonio de Guevara wrote in the 1520s for the instruction of King Charles I of Castile, better known as Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. The title in the original Spanish is Reloj de príncipes o Libro de Marco Aurelio.

Guevara, Antonio de, d. 1545.
Archontorologion; or The Diall of Princes…
London: B. Alsop, 1619. (Wilson Library Rare Books Quarto 862.G93 JDa).
Accessioned on December 11, 1913.

This 17th century English translation of Guevara’s Reloj de príncipes suggests how lasting and widespread was the reputation of this author, and the interest for things from Spain in northern Europe.

Mariana, Juan de, 1536-1624.
De rege et regis institutione.
Toledo: Apud P. Rodericum, 1599. (Wilson Library Rare Books 321.6 M337d).
Accessioned on December 11, 1948.

The Jesuit Father Juan de Mariana wrote this mirror of princes in 1590 for the future Philip III (r. 1598-1621). In this book Mariana presents the ideal king as a public servant who seeks advise, and describes how a king can be deposed if he becomes a tyrant. Because De rege justifies tyranicide, French authorities asked Philip III to ban it, but he refused, apparently convinced that he was not a tyrant.

Saavedra Fajardo, Diego de, 1584-1648.
Idea de un príncipe político cristiano en 100 empresas.
Amsterdam: Iohannes Ianssonium Luniorem, 1664. (Andersen Library Rare Books Small 320.1 Sa1i).
Accessioned on July 23, 1913, it was purchased for $1.88.

Diego de Saavedra Fajardo was a diplomat in the service of the Spanish Habsburgs. He wrote this mirror of princess in 1640 for Prince Baltasar Carlos, oldest son of King Philip IV. In what amounts to an anti-Machiavellian treatise, he reminds the Prince that although the people surrendered authority to rulers, they did not do sot o the extent of losing all their rights, and that arbitrary rulers courted on rebellion.

Abraham Ortelius. World Map "Typvs Orbis Terrarvm" 1570. [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons


Relación de Michoacán. Facsimile of manuscript of ca. 1540 at the library in El Escorial.
Madrid: Patrimonio Nacional. Testimonio Compañía Editorial, 2001. (Wilson Library Rare Books F1219 .M55 R4 2001).
Purchased in 2005.

This relación contains an account of the population, government, and ceremonies of the people of Michoacan, made for Viceroy Don Antonio de Mendoza of New Spain around 1540. Its version of the Spanish conquest of Mexico in 1519 may be considered as one of several native American versions of that event.

Murúa, Martín de.
Codice Murúa: Historia y genealogía de los reyes Incas. Facsimile of 1614 manuscript.
Madrid: Testimonio Compañía Editorial, 2004. (Wilson Library Rare Books Quarto F3429 .M97 2004).
Purchased in 2005.

Written by the Mercedarian friar Martín de Murúa eighty years after the Spanish conquest of Peru, this history of the Incas is remarkable for its color illustrations, attributed to the Andean chronicler Felipe Guamán Poma. It has been argued that the depictions of Inca queens and princesses in this book influenced the conventions associated to portraits of women of the Andean gentry painted in the 17th and 18th centuries in Peru and Alto Peru (present day Bolivia).

Ruiz de Alarcón, Juan, 1580-1639.
La verdad sospechosa.
Madrid, 17--. (Wilson Library Rare Books 862R85 OVa).
Accessioned on July 23, 1935, it was purchased as part of a lot from Nyhoff—no price was listed.

Spanish theater became influential outside of Europe, flourishing in present day Mexico, Peru, and the Philippine Islands. Mexican playwright Juan Ruiz de Alarcón lived in Madrid, where he wrote La verdad sospechosa, a play later adapted almost literally by the French playwright Pierre Corneille (1606-84) as Le menteur.

Juana Inés de la Cruz, Sister, 1651-1695.
Amor es más labyrinto.
Seville: D. Lopez ded Haro, 17--. (Wilson Library Rare Books PQ7296 .J6 A75 1700oz).

The Mexican polymath Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz has been recognized as one of the best writers in the language of Castile. Known in her lifetime as “The Tenth Muse,” her poems and plays were published and performed throughout the Spanish speaking world in the 17th century and in the first half of the 18th century.

By Laumosnier. Marriage of Louis XIV and Maria-Theresa, via Wikimedia Commons


Vega, Lope de, 1562-1635.
Corona trágica.
Madrid: Viuda de Luis Sanchez, 1627. (Wilson Library Rare Books 862V52 OCoro).

Mary Queen of Scots (1542-87) was considered a martyr by her Catholic contemporaries, and Philip II of Spain (r. 1556-98) claimed to have sent his armada to England in 1588 in order to avenge her execution by her Protestant cousin, Elizabeth Tudor. Lope de Vega, one of Spain’s most gifted poets, evoked her sorrows and her death in this poem of epic proportions.

Calderón de la Barca, Pedro, 1600-1681.
Loa para la comedia de La púrpura de la rosa.
Seville: s.n., 17--. (Wilson Library Rare Books 862C12 OPur).
Accessioned on March 21, 1931.

During the reign of King Philip IV (r. 1621-65) Spanish fiction and drama were influential in England, France, and Central Europe. Of all the Spanish playwrights during this period, Pedro Calderón de la Barca was the best known, and he was commissioned to write this court playing 1660, on the occasion of the betrothal of Philip’s oldest daughter, Infanta María Teresa (1638-83), to her first cousin, King Louis XIV of France (r. 1643-1715).

Mariana, Juan de, 1536-1624.
Historia general de España, 9 volumes.
Valencia: Oficina de B. Monfort, 1783-96. (Wilson Library Rare Books Folio 946 M33).
Accessioned on July 17, 1913, it was purchased for $11.07.

Translation into the language of Castile of the history of Spain written in Latin by Father Juan de Mariana towards de end of the 16th century. First published in 1592, it saw several editions with additional chapters.

Saavedra Fajardo, Diego de, 1584-1648.
Corona góthica castellana y austriaca, 2 volumes.
Antwerp: Juan Bautista Verdussen, 1677-78. (Wilson Library Rare Books Folio 946 Sa12).
Accessioned on February 17, 1958.

First published in 1646, this history of Spain through short biographies of her kings was seen by Saavedra Fajardo as a continuation of his Idea de un príncipe político cristiano. While in the latter he advised the prince on government and reason of state, in Corona góthica he attempted to show to him, through the lives of the Visigoth kings of Spain and those of Asturias, Leon and Castile that succeeded them, what type of conduct the prince should cultivate and what he should avoid.

Feijóo, Benito Jerónimo, 1676-1764.
Teatro crítico universal, 9 volumes.
Madrid, 1765-79. (Wilson Library Rare Books 863F32 OT).
Accessioned on October 10, 1916, it was purchased for $7.72.

In 1700, Charles II (r.1665-1700), last Spanish king of the House of Habsburg, died childless, and he left his domains to Philip of Anjou, grandson of King Louis XIV of France. That is how the House of Bourbon came to reign in Spain. The change of dynasty in the early 18th century brought about in Spain an increased interest in science and the latest European ideas. Those ideas were promoted in the Spanish speaking world by the Benedictine monk Friar Benito Jerónimo Feijóo through his Teatro crítico universal (1726-39), an encyclopedia-like compilation of essays where he submitted to scrutiny ideas both old and new.